Rodney Blumberg stepped on to his porch following Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented rainfall and saw the water receding.
"We thought we were safe," says Rodney. "The water made it up to our porch and then started to go down."
Inside, his wife Cora Nell checked the weather forecast.
"They were saying we wouldn't get any more rain," says Cora Nell. "We thought the worst was over."
By the following day, however, the couple's home of 30 years in Houston's Heathlake community had taken on two feet of floodwater after the Army Corps of Engineers' water release from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
"Three volunteers in wetsuits came by our house in kayaks to help us evacuate," says Rodney. "We packed what we could—important documents, medicine, and valuables—into six small duffel bags and left. It was a surreal feeling as we floated out of the neighborhood."
Cora Nell nods in agreement.
"It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you don't have a home anymore," she says.
The couple stayed with friends while they planned their next move.
"We know several people who live at Eagle's Trace," says Rodney. "Cora Nell and I joined the priority list in January 2015, with the idea that we'd move to the community in three to five years."
The morning after their evacuation, Rodney called Jodie Schroeder, sales counselor at Eagle's Trace.
"Within hours, Jodie found three potential apartments for us," says Rodney. "She emailed us the floor plans, because roads were closed and we couldn't make it to the community."
During Hurricane Harvey, residents of Eagle's Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, were safe and the community didn't sustain any flooding or significant damage.
"Joining the priority list really paid off," says Rodney. "As priority list members, we'd been to events at the community and toured several apartments. When Jodie emailed us the available floor plans, we were able to choose the best one for us."
On September 8, 2017, nine days after they left their flooded home, Rodney and Cora Nell settled into their two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at Eagle's Trace.
"The sales team put in a lot of work to get us here in a week," says Cora Nell. "They made things as easy as possible for us."
Safe place to land
Now, as they deal with their flooded home, the couple is grateful they landed in a safe place.
"There's shock and trauma, followed by a lot of mental and physical exertion as we navigate insurance, remediation, and preparing to sell the home 'as-is' following remediation," says Rodney.
"It's nice to return to Eagle's Trace each evening and leave the muddy, toxic mess behind us," adds Cora Nell.
Months after Harvey's devastating trek across Houston, Pam Burgeson, sales director at Eagle's Trace, says her team is still working with people whose homes were flooded.
"It can be a paralyzing situation," says Burgeson. "People are waiting on insurance checks, waiting on FEMA, trying to decide whether to rebuild or move. It's easy to feel like you're frozen, like you don't know what the next step should be."
Burgeson speaks from experience. Her parents' home in Dickinson flooded, and they are now planning their own move to Eagle's Trace.
"You don't have to go through this alone," says Burgeson. "At Eagle's Trace, we have resources to help. We have a team of preferred vendors with the expertise to guide you through this challenging time."
Team of experts at the ready
Lisa Hudgens is a preferred real estate agent for Eagle's Trace. She's one of the professionals recommended by Personal Moving Consultant Haven Benoit, who offers complimentary coordination of moving resources for anyone moving to Eagle's Trace.
"The first step toward recovery is knowing the amount you'll get from the insurance company if you had flood insurance," says Hudgens. "Even if you don't have the check in your hands, it's important to know that number."
Not long after the floodwaters subsided, investors from across the country swarmed the city, offering pennies on the dollar for flooded homes and the promise of a quick closing.
"For many people, these offers are tempting because of the sheer enormity of the rebuilding process," says Hudgens. "As a preferred real estate agent for Eagle's Trace, my job has always been to act in the best interest of my clients."
Professionals on your side
Hudgens says many homes are selling as-is, citing the example of one prospective Eagle's Trace resident whose home was under contract but flooded two days before the scheduled closing. The original buyer backed out, but Hudgens negotiated a contract with an investor. The home's sale price, combined with money from the insurance company, resulted in an $8,000 gain over what the homeowner would have received from the original contract.
"Let your agent do a comparative market analysis to determine what flooded homes are selling for in your neighborhood," says Hudgens. "Combine that with your expected payout from the insurance company, and you may be better off than you think."
Hudgens emphasizes the importance of having a professional on your side.
"Dealing with a flooded home is stressful," she says. "I tell my clients to put it on my shoulders. Let me call the investors and see if we can negotiate a higher price point. Don't make a quick decision and leave money on the table."
Susan Gaze, senior move manager with Tender Transitions and another preferred vendor, regularly works with those moving to Eagle's Trace. She's seen her role take on a new dimension post-Harvey.
"My clients often have a lifetime of memories in their homes," says Gaze. "I worked with one client who had antiques that had been in her family for generations. She had six feet of floodwaters in her home. Those antiques were under water for several weeks before they could be recovered and just weren't salvageable."
Now Gaze says she's employing her resources to help her clients move forward.
"I can pull together options for things they might need—furniture, bedding, dishes," says Gaze. "It's their decision if they'd like to purchase anything, but I can be a resource, a sounding board."
Getting items out of storage
Gaze also uses her expertise to help clients sort through items that may have been hastily thrown into storage.
"Once you know where you're going to live, I can assist with distributing items in storage, whether they're going to your new home, handed down to children, or donated," she says.
Gaze knows the emotional toll of rebuilding. Her 81-year-old father's home flooded, and he lost everything.
"I feel personally what people are going through because I'm trying to help my dad rebuild his life," says Gaze. "Some people just need guidance to know what to do, somebody to help them make rational decisions and put the pieces back together."